There are times that I believe that this song must be the mantra of student affairs staff members. So often on Twitter or Facebook, in meetings, or at trainings, I hear the phrase “choose your attitude.”
Choose to be positive, not negative.
Choose to look on the bright side, not the dark side.
Choose to be happy (or at least content), not sad.
Choose to be something other than pessimistic.
Look for the unicorns! Look for the puppies! Look! Choose to see them! They’re there if you look!
Generally, I’m ok with this.
Sometimes, however, I’m not.
Sometimes things are difficult.
Sometimes things are challenging.
Sometimes things are just downright awful, and, sometimes, there is not a happy-go-lucky, cheery, paint-a-smile-on-your-face feeling to be found.
And yet what do I hear?
Choose your attitude. Or, to put it in FiSH philosophy terms, choose your ’tude.
To me, this is largely disingenuous. Why, exactly, are we putting on a happy face when things legitimately are not happy? What service are we providing by pretending to be OK with whatever is going on when we actually need support and the ability to be not happy.
We encourage our students and coworkers to be honest. We discuss authenticity with our colleagues and supervisors. We have open doors and welcome the opportunity to talk to whomever about whatever whenever.
We should reserve the right to have crappy days and to not be forced to look/feel/act otherwise.
I admit… I can be a proverbial bucket of sunshine at times. I can exude rainbows and look for the silver lining in situations with the best of them. But sometimes things suck, and that’s that.
In my mind, it boils down to this. I have the right to be upset, angry, annoyed, pessimistic, sad, dejected, or whatever other negative feeling there is. I have the responsibility, though, to give others a heads up about what they might encounter should they choose to engage me in conversation. I also have the responsibility, after an appropriate amount of time (dependent on the situation), to move on, get over myself, and revert to my unicorn-loving self.
In the interim, though, let me be. And let me show a genuine side of life to my students – because if they can see me being productive and tactful even while harboring a less-than-stellar attitude, maybe they, too, can learn to channel negative energy positively.
Matt Pistilli is a post-doctoral research associate/educational technologist for Information Technology at Purdue University.